An Encouraging Word – Audacity

Father J. Ronald Knott
Father J. Ronald Knott

I will not be afraid! Hebrews 13:6

I discovered this Admiral Grace Hopper quote later in life, but it has been a personal policy most of the time. “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.”

Asking for permission can trigger a certain “no,” so to get anywhere in life I have had to accept forgiveness or take my punishment. What surprises me is how often her advice has actually worked in my favor.

I don’t believe in breaking laws, but I do believe in sticking my neck out. I follow the advice of the 19th-century German writer and statesman, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. “Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”

I have discovered that I can do a lot more than I thought if I can muster up enough nerve. When I too easily take “no” from others, or even too easily take “no” from myself, I have found that it’s because I am giving in to my lazy streak and that must be confronted if I want to get anything interesting done.

In 1975, I found myself in the home missions of our diocese without any training in evangelization, fundraising, understanding the Bible Belt culture or starting a parish. When I did ask for money to “go back to school” to learn what I needed to know, they said “no.”

Without permission, I proceeded to ask the Presbyterian Church USA for a scholarship to their doctor of ministry program in “parish revitalization.” They gave me a full scholarship on two grounds: poverty income and minority religion. I graduated from McCormick (Presbyteraian) Seminary of Chicago in 1980.

In 1995, I was challenged to publish my homilies. I was scared to death of rejection if I asked and judgment if I didn’t, but I faced my fears — without asking for permission from authorities. The first book was published by Crossroads Press in New York. Thirty-one published books later, I have still not been burned at the stake by the Vatican.

When I was facing retirement three years ago, I thought it would be nice to start a program for retired priests who might like an alternative to the standard “fill in here and there” program most retired priests involve themselves in.

When I presented my original idea, Second Wind Guild, the title was rejected and I was forced at accept the title, Encore Priests. From lack of support, I was forced to abandon the whole idea and move on.

Without permission, I am deeply involved in my own version of Second Wind Guild with the support of two Caribbean bishops. In its second year, the evolution has been amazing and holds great promise. I hope to open a chapter in Alaska someday.

If it’s good and you want it, go for it. Take a risk. If you play it too safe, you’ll die wondering.

To read more from Father Knott, visit his blog:

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